Friday, April 23, 2010

Domestic Heaven: Dark Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread

Is there anything that says "domestic bliss" like banana bread?  I think not.  And dark chocolate chunk banana bread?  Well, that's gotta be domestic heaven.  Plus, this version is egg- and dairy-free, so not only can you enjoy the delicious baked bread, you can also lick your batter-covered spatula (love that) free of worries about the dangerous bacteria that linger in raw eggs.

Calling this "bread" is a bit generous, since with 1/2 cup of sugar, it's more cake-y than bread-y.  But in my mind, a health-full life includes some indulgence.  And as this recipe only has 3 tablespoons of canola oil, and as dark chocolate is so full of antioxidants it's practically a vitamin itself, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without a ton of guilt.  

This is a quick, delicious version that also happens to be vegan (as I mentioned), inspired by Robin Robertson's version from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.  (Not surprisingly, 1,000 Vegan Recipes is a mighty tome, and worth a perusal or purchase.  If you're trying to eat more plant-based meals, or just eat more veggies, the book covers everything, and is a great resource to have.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Instant Bruschetta = Instant Gratification

Instant bruschetta = instant gratification.  See, I had to take a bite even before I took a picture.  Sometimes the art has to wait.

This is a ridiculously simple recipe.  In fact, it's barely a recipe.  It's more of a reminder.  You see, I was a feeling a tad peckish just now, and at first, the best my brain could come up with was toast.  Now I adore toast -- just ask my Facebook page -- and I'm never disappointed with plain ol' (soy) buttered toast.  But the kitchen angels smiled upon me today as I popped into the toaster the last two slices of a nice loaf of rosemary olive bread that we picked up yesterday.  First, I thought I might smear my with some nice ripe avocado.  Nope, the avocados on the counter are green rocks; not ready to eat for at least another six weeks.  (Ha.)  But then my gaze alighted upon that bright red thing in front of the avocados, screaming for attention.  Yes, the wonderful, adoration-worthy tomato.  (True, it's too early for tomatoes, season-wise.  But we're getting there.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2 Minutes of Peace

This is, admittedly, a terrible video. Nothing happens. The view is lacking. The quality is lousy. But you know what? That's the point. See, the two minutes of peace are for you; they're not about the video. It's not about being entertained.

You see, I was sitting, watching the rain just now (and now you see what I see from my living room), and I felt such peace. And I thought you might like to feel it too.

So take two minutes and just breathe. Quiet your mind as best you can, and if you can't, don't worry about it. Just give yourself two minutes of peace. From everything. Let it all go for two minutes. Don't worry, you can pick it all up on your way out if you'd like. (Feel free to leave it, though.)

Close your eyes if you like, and listen to the (faint) sound of the rain. Or listen to your breath instead. Or keep your eyes open if you're more comfortable that way. Whatever you choose, just be sure to give yourself two minutes of peace. It's the shortest, most wonderful gift you can give yourself right now.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Wonderful, Humble Beet: the perfect happy hour appetizer

The humble beet.  So vibrant, and yet, so beet-y.  But these gorgeous crimson beets, and those in golden and rainbow hues, pack nutritional benefit.  Not surprisingly, that bright crimson pigment (called betacyanin) signifies the presence of antioxidant power.  Oh, antioxidants -- such beauty, such strength -- you have it all, don't you?  (Read more about the benefits of beets here.)

And I discovered recently that beets don't need much to shine.  Plus, they make an excellent happy hour appetizer when paired with a glass of lovely white wine.  So dress up your plate of sliced, roasted beets with champagne vinegar and olive oil and indulge.  (And feel free to use your fingers.)  Behold:

Roasting beets is easy, it just takes time.  But the good news is that you don't have to stand over the stove stirring, you can just pop 'em in the oven, and an hour or so later, they're ready to go.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Shine as Brightly as You Can: You're Meant To

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. -- Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

I love that quote.  I see it a lot, and I think it's worth plastering everywhere as a reminder to ourselves: we are meant to shine as brightly as we can.  The passage that follows that quote in Marianne Williamson's A Return to Love is brilliant and beautiful.  I'll let her words speak:
"We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small doesn't serve the world.  There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.  We are all meant to shine, as children do.  We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us.  It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone.  And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Shine on you crazy diamond, shine on.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Pedestal-worthy, Sicilian-street-food-inspired Sandwich

Oh yeah, does this sandwich deserve a pedestal.  Look at that gorgeousness.  This sandwich will transport you to Sicily.

Trust me, there is a far better way to get a tasty, satisfying, protein-rich lunch than some limp slices of luncheon meat slapped between two pieces of bread.  Not to mention that those nitrates found in cold cuts are evil incarnate: processed meats (and nitrates/nitrites) are to colon cancer what cigarettes are to lung cancer.  Want the facts?  The American Cancer society summarizes a study that details the risk of eating processed meats here; note that consuming as (seemingly) little as 2-6 ounces of cold cuts a week, which ain't a lot really, a couple of sandwiches perhaps, can raise your colon cancer risk by 50%.  Fifty percent, my friends!  For a lousy old sandwich or two!  Scared straight yet?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spinach, get yer spinach here! (Tuck it into a little orzo and dress it up.)

Orzo Spinach Salad: A beautiful summery dish for a glorious, sunshiney day.  But this salad works year round, and I have to say, that's one of the best things about it -- in addition to the fact that it's hearty, quick and easy, beautiful, and delicious, of course.  You toss just-cooked, olive-oil-drizzled, warm orzo pasta together with chopped fresh spinach, and come out with a flavorful meal that's great year round, and chockfull of health.  Plus it's a fantastic what-the-heck-should-I-make-for-dinner option when your cupboards are running a little on the bare side, as you can keep a box of orzo in the cupboard, and a jar of olives, or artichoke hearts, or roasted red peppers, or chickpeas or cannellini beans, so you can make this salad in a flash if you just add fresh spinach.  

And if you've been lucky enough to grab fresh tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, or zucchini, so much fancier will your salad be.  Not to mention that if spinach is a four letter word in your house, the more you disguise it and dress it up with other goodies, the less likely you are to get complaints.  (I think.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tip of the Day: Make it Easy

I'll be the first to admit that grabbing some fruits or veggies to snack on when you're really hungry isn't always the first choice.  We all know it should be, but sometimes that nice glass bowl of mini chocolate bars at the office gets the better of us.  (Or pretzels.  Or chips.  Or...)  Actually, it's not really our faults; it's science.  Some years ago I read about a Cornell study that found that people are likely to eat more candy in the office if it's out and visible (and even if we're not hungry).  See?  It's not us, it's science.

The good news is that we can use this info to our benefit.  Put out the healthy stuff.  If you see it, you're more likely to eat it.  A bowl of blueberries or strawberries, or keep cut up veggies on a plate in the fridge so that when you open the door, lo and behold: crudite!  Do some prep work ahead of time and you'll enjoy the fruits (or veggies) of your labor for a few days while you righteously snack on fruits and veggies.  (Check you out!)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Roasted, Golden Potato Pizza: Sunshine on a Plate

Today is a gray, rainy Monday -- perfect for baking some sunshine in your kitchen, with a roasted potato pizza.  Lovely Yukon Gold potatoes are sliced into golden discs that are quickly roasted (before the pizza is baked) to give them even more color and flavor, and they make this one of the cheeriest pizzas I've ever seen.  (Though there's really no such thing as a grouchy pizza; it's just not possible.)  

Plus, this pizza is cheese (and dairy) free, so it's practically guilt free, but also delicious and flavorful, with that extra bonus of being nice and comfort-food-y as it's pizza and roasted potatoes in one!  Not to mention that those lovely yellow potatoes are also a good source of Vitamin C and B6, plus iron and protein.  (One approx. 5 ounce potato has 45% of your RDA for vitamin C and 10% for B6, plus 6% of your daily iron, and 4 grams of protein.  Read more health facts here.)  And if you eat a slice or two (or five, let's be honest here) with a nice green salad, you can definitely feast quite health-righteously.  Of course, it's easy; you know me.  Here's the lowdown.